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State of the City: Sen. Feinstein: World Sustainability

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein took the occasion of the inaugural State of the City luncheon to deliver a substantial policy address on global warming on Tuesday, January 15, at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.  The luncheon, sponsored by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, also featured a panel of local leaders speaking on the business and community outlook for 2008.

Feinstein outlined “a comprehensive package of legislation that would reduce harmful greenhouse gasses” on which she is working, and she spoke passionately yet reasonably of the need to take action now.  “My purpose today is to help you feel a sense of commitment to protect your community – to protect your business,” she told the Chamber audience.

After acknowledging the substantial efforts that Santa Monica has made in the area of sustainability (“as good a green city as we have in California…one of the most environmentally conscious places in the state”), she called upon the receptive audience to support broader action:  “The science is indisputable: Global warming is real. It’s already happening. In the rain forests of the tropics, in the glaciers of the north, and in the coral reefs of the seas – the world around us is changing…And if we do not slow, stop, and reverse global warming soon, we will do irreparable harm to the world around us.”

The local panel, moderated by former mayor Nat Trives, featured a welcome by Mayor Herb Katz, who spoke of the revision of the City Master Plan and called it “not a traditional city plan but a program for creating neighborhoods in our City,” and a detailed outline of priorities for 2008 by City Manager Lamont Ewell, who concluded that his budget objectives were to prioritize the budget in keeping with the people’s wants, to reduce expenses so as to build reserves, and to focus on infrastructure investment.

Misti Kerns, President/CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, reported that last year was the highest hotel occupancy rate the City had ever enjoyed (83 percent), but that the number of returning visitors and the length of stay were both declining.  She also expressed concern that domestic visitors increased more than international, although Japanese visitors were making “a resurgence,” moving up to second behind the U.K.  (Australia and New Zealand are third and fourth.)

Bayside District Corporation Executive Director Kathleen Rawson reviewed the state of downtown and the impact of competition from a renovated Century City and The Grove.  Expressing satisfaction that Macerich Company is moving forward with the remodeling of Santa Monica Place, she said Bayside’s key programs for the year were the “Ambassador Program” (a sort of band of roving concierges to assist shoppers and visitors – this reporter’s term, not Rawson’s), an increased maintenance program, and a stepped-up marketing program.

Chamber Chairman Tom Larmore spoke of the Chamber’s priorities, including improvements in workforce housing, the lack of which was harmful to local employers, and Chamber President/CEO Laurel Rosen outlined an “Emerging Leaders” program to reach out to the locally growing entertainment and technology industries in particular.

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